What Chris Brown and Scott Roeder have in common
Recent news about Scott Roeder has got me thinking about the way people sort of rise and fall in the public eye. Chris Brown, for instance, was all over the front pages of everything when his case was breaking, and he’s faded since then. I’ve just learned while writing this that he’s been sentenced. So why haven’t we been hearing about it more? And why had Roeder’s name lain silent for that interim period?
The way the public reacts to news media is often unpredictable. It’s hard to tell which stories will be how popular for how long. Roeder and Brown have something important in common, though. Obscurity is a luxury they do not deserve. Roeder may have mental problems, so I’m a little more reluctant to judge him, but Brown has no excuse that I know of. Especially noteworthy in my opinion is his cultural status. Domestic violence is something we are taught. From the moment we are exposed to the outside world, we see images of men beating and dominating women, we see images of submissive women portrayed as attractive and desirable. We are bathed in these stereotypes from birth until death. That’s not just an American phenomenon, as easy as it would be for me to denounce it as such (even though this is the only so-called “civilized” country where it’s legal to beat your children). No, this is a crisis of global cultural expectations.
Domestic violence is never the fault of the victim. Period. But in this case, can we really even blame the aggressor? As a man, I know I’ve felt that same pressure before, to assert myself over women, in many ways, not just in the context of the relationship. He bowed to that pressure. Can we really judge anyone for that? Everyone witholds against pressure of any kind as far as they can without breaking; that’s human nature. Can you really blame someone if they can’t take as much as you? Just because you or I wouldn’t do the same thing in that situation, does that make him a lesser man, or a man less deserving of pity? I don’t know. But I do know that we’re missing an incredible opportunity for progress if we let this story slip by. If we call him just another angry man or just another pressured man, we miss the point. How many kids to whom this person is a cultural element have learned from his actions? No public apologies can undo the impact that he’s had on them. This is an issue that every single one of us needs to tackle head on. These are not isolated incidents.
Is that an excuse for Brown? No. We can’t solve this problem by witholding responsibility, whether from society or from individuals. He did something heinous. He physically abused someone who trusted him and who he was connected to. He betrayed their trust. He showed them that they could not relate to another person safely. That’s a scarring lesson to learn. It’s one that many people learn, and whose impact is significantly underrated.
Societies tend to ignore persistent problems or try to classify them as something else. Whether it’s widespread domestic violence, gun crime, or suicide bombings, we can’t turn a blind eye anymore. There are serious issues with the way the world expects people to function. Those issues need to be addressed by grassroots action in order to change.